MSNBC Panelist: 2nd Amendment ‘Intended to Preserve White Supremacy,’ Not Individual Rights to Bear Arms

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - OCTOBER 26: Elie Mystal speaks onstage during the 2019 Politicon at
Ed Rode/Getty Images for Politicon

The Second Amendment does not provide individuals gun rights but was intended to preserve white supremacy and “kill black people,” according to frequent MSNBC panelist and The Nation‘s justice correspondent Elie Mystal.

Appearing on MSNBC’s The Mehdi Hasan Show on Wednesday night, Mystal was asked by the host about the argument in his new book, titled Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution, that “an individual’s right to self defense with a gun was not provided by the Second Amendment, but by the conservative Supreme Court’s interpretation” of it. 

He was also asked about his assertion the “original purpose to the Second Amendment” was not to keep people safe but “to preserve white supremacy and slavery.”

Mystal, a Harvard Law School graduate, claimed his positions stemmed from him “reading Patrick Henry and George Mason — who was then Governor of Virginia at the founding of the country.”

“This is not my words. This is what those white guys said when they were debating the Second Amendment,” he stated. 

“They said that they needed a Second Amendment because they needed the armed ‘disciplined’ — that was their word — militia to put down slave revolts,” he added, “and they were worried that under the original constitution the federal government had all of the power to raise the militia.”

According to Mystal, “the Southerners needed the militias to put down slave revolts because… it’s a little bit difficult to hold people in bondage against their will, so you needed some military superiority.” 

“The Second Amendment was there to make sure that the states had the power to raise the militia on their own,” he claimed.

He then presented an example to support his view.

“So, Virginia could raise its own militia to put down slave revolts in Virginia without having to ask Connecticut or Massachusetts whether or not they agreed with that,” he said. “That’s why it’s there. That’s why the white folks said it was there.”

“Fast forward to 2008, and [Justice] Antonin Scalia just makes up an entirely different Second Amendment right out of thin air,” he added.

In March, Mystal was joined by Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick to discuss the importance of critiquing the Constitution’s origins as he asserted the Second Amendment’s aim was “to kill black people.”

“The constitution is not great and often is working purposefully towards those not great outcomes and the fallible men are simply upholding what the Constitution was originally intended to do, which, in the case of the Second Amendment, it was originally intended to kill black people,” he said.

Mystal’s claims have been debunked repeatedly.

In an essay from July, legal scholar Jonathan Turley called out the “reframing” of issues such as the Second Amendment in racial terms and the attempts to “rewrite history.”

“[T]he suggestion that [slavery] was a primary motivation for the Second Amendment is utter nonsense,” he wrote.

“States opposed to slavery, like Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island, had precursor state constitutional provisions recognizing the right to bear arms,” he added.

Noting the large number of Black American gun owners, Turley highlighted how gun ownership “has a long, fiercely defended tradition in the Black community.”

“Some African Americans have long viewed guns as an equalizer, including escaped slave and famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who, in an editorial, heralded the power of ‘a good revolver, a steady hand,’” he wrote. 

Last month, Mystal said the Founding Fathers were “racist, misogynist jerkfaces” when reacting to the draft of a Supreme Court opinion set to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In March, he claimed the United States Constitution is “trash” written by the “captains of the slaving industry.”

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.


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